S Kwaku Daddy
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S Kwaku Daddy

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The best kept secret in music


"The Renegade Rip"

African drummer brings history, wisdom and music to BC
  People were dancing, and swaying to the rhythm that master drummer Samuel Kwaku Daddy played during his musical presentation at Bakersfield College.
     Thanks to the efforts of Daddy’s former student and BC teacher Dr. Ron Kean and the support of Dr. Wilhelmina Anthony and the Staff Diversity Committee, Daddy was able to perform at BC as part of the recent festivities celebrating Black History Month, after attending this year’s Grammys.
     He lectured and demonstrated African drumming to former student Kean’s world music classes, and performing a noon time musical demonstration.
     Born in Adabraka, Ghana and playing since he was 3 years of age, Daddy comes from a family tradition of master drummers and folklorists.
     "Over 28 generations of master drummers…my mother is from generations and generations of folklorists, storytellers," he said.
     In a culture where music is as much a part of daily life as breathing, master drummers and storytellers have an esteemed part in African society because they carry African history.
     "It’s a very big tradition," he explained. "It’s a tradition that doesn’t only know the philosophy of a society, it’s a tradition that maintains the heritage of a society. It’s an honor to be (master drummer)."
     Though Daddy comes from a long line of master drummers and storytellers, he wasn’t aware of it while growing up. For him, it was just having fun.
     "I was just playing, just having fun. But they made sure I learned all the stuff," he said.
     "In the African culture you have to learn the tradition anyway, whether you’re going to be a lawyer, doctor or whatever you’re going to be. You have to learn because that’s what contains your history. It contains your folklore, your music. African society and its history-music have so much to do with it. You don’t do anything in Africa without singing or playing. Music’s constantly there."
     By the time Daddy was 14, he was traveling around Africa with a musical group.
     "You know when you become a master you have to become something like a wandering minstrel. You do a concert from here to there and you go to Nigeria, you go to this town you go to this place, to Kenya."
     He left Ghana when he started playing in England and Italy regularly. He has played around the world as headliner, co-headliner, solo artist and band member. For years he toured with musical giant Dizzy Gillepsie as well as Buddy Rich and Randy Westin. He’s also co-headlined with Santana and Jimmy Cliff as well as recorded music with ‘Grammy nominee, Paul Winter.
     Daddy attended this year’s Grammys to support Winter as well as see his peers.
     Daddy himself has been nominated to be on the Grammy ballot twice. Though he has never made it to the final ballot, he feels it is an honor to just be nominated.
     "I keep saying to myself one of these days. Actually I love going to these things, it’s not about winning or not winning, I just like to just be there. I think just being there makes me a winner anyway.
     When Daddy is not rubbing elbows with his musical peers, he can be found teaching music and African drumming at San Francisco City College.
     He began his teaching career at San Francisco State University, where he taught for 10 years before moving to San Francisco City College.
     It was through teaching that Daddy met Kean at a conference for the Music Association of Community Colleges.
     "He was there playing and demonstrating African musical instruments at a time when I was beginning to like and explore world music," said Kean.
     In 1993, on his sabbatical, he went to study West African drumming with Daddy, Kean cites his study of African drumming as enhancing his conducting skills. According to him, major choral conductors commented that the sound of his choirs had become more vibrant and robust as a result of his studies. He went on to say that the music itself has been a moving experience for him.
     "The music that I’ve experienced with Kwaku is a deeply spiritual music that uses an incredible division of complex rhythms on natural instruments as a way to experience the natural music of the planet."
     In his presentation, Daddy stressed the importance of music.
     "In music you play music to grow." - March 10, 2000

"The San Francisco Chronical"

Drummer Kwaku Daddy Brings the African Back Into Jazz

Ghanaian takes
an American form
back to its roots

Musicologists trace the roots of jazz to a co-mingling of traditional West African and African American folk music forms at the beginning of this century.  Now, at the century's end, Petaluma master drummer, folklorist and educator Kwaku Daddy,  "THE ARTS", intend to take the form back to its roots, with a fusion of traditional African music and American jazz he simply calls "African jazz."

On Wednesday evening, Daddy brings a newly formed jazz act to Sausalito-based Gatsby's Bar and Restaurant. The gig marks a return of sorts for Daddy, who began his musical career as a jazz percussionist before he started to steep himself in traditional African music for the past two decades.

The spry 53-year-old is a veteran of conceit halls, recording studios and classrooms (he teaches at City College of San Francisco as well as privately and for corporate affairs), since emigrating to the United States from the West African nation of Ghana in 1968.

In his salad days, he played with such luminaries as trumpet great Dizzy Gillespie at the 1975 Monterey Jazz Festival. (The jam appears as the track "Tribute to Ralph Gleason" a former Chronicle writer -on the recently released CD "The Monterey Jazz Festival - 40 Leg-endary Years").

Daddy has also released several of his own solo albums on the San Francisco-based African Heritage Records, including last year's Positive, a compendium of musical fables, which followed an award and grant from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in recognition of his work as a composer.

His latest album, "Hedzoleh" (from the Ga people of Ghana, meaning "inner peace and freedom"), also garnered recognition from ASCAP, and in addition, he has received the Sonoma County Arts Council traditional Folk Artist Award.

Accolades aside, Daddy's mind, for now at least, is on jazz.

"I haven't put a band like this together for nearly 12 years," he says of his new jazz act, which includes a pianist, trumpet player, saxophonist, guitarist, string bassist and a trio of percussionist-dancers. "It's a sort of rebirth," he says.

Daddy's rekindled interest in jazz is, in part, an effort to preserve the heritage of jazz, prompted by what he found among his students at CCSF.

"I think the youngsters of today need to know more about American music. When we speak about jazz, we're really speaking about American music. When you mention jazz, many young people think it's something that's just played in Europe or Brazil or someplace," Daddy says.

"Jazz is right here; it's an American thing. The form is obviously influenced by African music, but jazz as we know it has an American foundation. I think that needs to be brought to forefront of kids' awareness."

He has made it his mission to acquaint his students with the likes of Gillespie, Charlie Mingus and John Coltrane.

"These guys are part of their American heritage. This awareness needs to be instituted more strongly in America," says Daddy, who will perform a raft of original compositions "giving voice to African rhythms through the American jazz idiom" at his performance at Gatsby's.

"The melodic ranges and rhythmic phrases of the music presented elements that my musicians really had to work at. It's not like playing standard jazz," Daddy says. "Some of the pieces are inspired by African folklore and told through the music in story format with a beginning, middle and end."

Traditional African music and American jazz both employ a "call-and-response" formula, he notes.

"When you're playing jazz," he says, "your band mates have to understand what you're doing at all times. You have to know how to play. I look at jazz as a 'speaking music.' The musicians are speaking through their instruments, and you have know what they are saying, so you can respond to it. It's a conversation.

"Jazz has much in common with traditional African drumming, which also speaks. The drummers are talking back and forth. Certain rhythms indicate certain things. Such is the nature of jazz."

- Daedalus Howel


The Journey


Feeling a bit camera shy


A celebrated performer, artist and teacher, Kwaku was born and raised in Ghana. A dynamic performer and spellbinding folklorist, he brings history alive through customs and ritual tradition reflected in the vibrant sounds and rhythms of the African surroundings.
Daddy has co-headlined and performed with some of the world class artists in jazz, rhythm and blues and reggae, including Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Randy Weston, Santana, Quincy Jones, John Handy, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh and has conducted numerous educational workshops with the legendary Johnny Otis. In 1978, Daddy assisted the Paul Winter Consort with their "Common Ground" album.

In 1990, Daddy performed his "African Concerto" as guest composer and soloist with the Santa Rosa Symphony in cooperation with the area school districts for multicultural studies. The same year, he was the recipient of the Sonoma county Arts Traditional Folk Artist Award.

Mr. Daddy integrates West African philosophy, history, culture, music and dance into the core curriculum of his classes. Currently he is teaching in the Music Department at City College of San Francisco as well as at Sonoma State University. Perhaps his greatest expertise is the thunderous power of his drumming. To be a master drummer is one of the highest honors a man can achieve in Africa. Daddy has released seven albums. He is a member of ASCAP and the Recording Academy.